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Gadgets and Geeks

Few inventors are fortunate enough to have their invention become known by their name. Racine’s Albert J. Dremel is one of those inventors.

Dremel (1887-1968) emigrated to the U.S. from Austria in the early 1900s and became a trained design engineer. Although he held design posts at the J.I. Case Co. and other manufacturers, Dremel was truly a constant tinkerer holding 55 U.S. patents at the time of his death.

Among Dremel’s inventions for other businesses was the first lawn mower powered by an internal combustion engine (produced by the Jacobsen Company) and a washing machine wringer (produced by the Maytag Company).

Dremel launched his own company in 1932 to produce small power tools, including a razor blade sharpener. His breakthrough product, however, was the Dremel Moto-Tool – an electric tool designed to rotate a bit at high-speed. This tool, equipped with removable bits or burrs, performed a variety of tasks such as grinding, cutting, polishing, sharpening, carving and engraving.

The versatile Dremel rotary tool was quickly prized by everyone from dental technicians to dog groomers as a true do-it-all gadget. Tool attachments were developed to perform specialty work like sculpting pumpkins and cleaning golf club heads. To this day, users casually refer to the tool as “a Dremel.”

Albert Dremel himself kept right on inventing. His list of inventions eventually included an electric shoe polisher, an electric screwdriver and an electric fish scaler. Dremel was also an innovative employer paying his workers annual profit-sharing bonuses.

The Dremel Company was acquired in 1993 by Robert Bosch GmbH. It is now a subsidiary of Robert Bosch Tool Corp. of Mount Prospect, Ill. A Dremel tools service center is on 21st Street in Racine.

Today, the Dremel name is applied to the famous rotary tool and other devices used in maker spaces, including scroll saws, hot glue guns and 3D printers. Albert Dremel would be right at home in one of those spaces.

Check out the other Gadgets & Geeks stories.

(Material for this story came from “Invention City – The Sesquicentennial History of Racine, Wisconsin” by John Buenker (1998 – Racine Heritage Museum), Racine Heritage Museum and Wikipedia.)

Editor’s note: Gadgets and Geeks is an ongoing series of stories that highlight inventions from Racine County. Pay close attention, because in a few weeks, the Racine County Eye will hold a trivia contest with the answers gleaned from these stories.

Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...